What Did Jesus Write In The Sand?
As I was studying the Biblical observance of the Feast of Tabernacles for a Bible study I was writing, I remembered a scene from Mel Gibson's movie, "The Passion of the Christ." The movie depicted a scene from the Bible in which the religious leaders of the day were trying to stone a young woman caught in adultery. Jesus stopped them by writing something in the sand. The scene, as it was portrayed in the movie, was very dramatic and thought provoking. Since the observance of the Feast of Tabernacles was the scriptural setting for the scene between the young woman and Jesus, I wanted to know more about what traditionally happened in the observance of that celebration and if there was a connection between the Feast of Tabernacles and what Jesus wrote in the sand that day. I was amazed and filled with praise at what God showed me.
From studying a book about Jewish observances, I learned that there were several ceremonial practices that were celebrated as part of the Feast of Tabernacles. One of those traditions was The Celebration of Water Pouring. The priests would have been divided into three groups, with each group having a definite assignment. The third group of priests were assigned to go to the pool known as Siloam and drew out what was known as "mayim hayim," (living water) which was to be poured it into a golden vase. At the appropriate time during the feast, as the worshippers sang a song about the joy of drawing water from the well of salvation, the High Priest would pour the "mayim hayim" (living water) from the golden vase onto the altar.
God gave specific instructions in Leviticus for the observance of this Feast and each of the components of the Old Testament feasts had significant meaning pointing to its fulfillment in the Messiah. The annual celebration of these feasts began with the institution of the Old Testament temple practices in the days of Moses. But if we fast forward from the Old Testament celebrations of The Feast of Tabernacles and look at a New Testament observance of the same feast we can find an actual incident in which Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of the "mayim hayim" in declaring Himself to be the real Living Water.
In the second chapter of John, we learn that Jesus was in town during the Jewish annual observance of the Feast of Tabernacles. (John 7:2) The worshippers would have just sung, "With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation." The Hebrew word for salvation is "Yeshua," or Jesus. Remember that they called the water collected from the pool of Siloam "living water." Here's what happened on the final day of The Feast of Tabernacles celebration that year.
"37. On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water." 39. But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified."
John 7:37-39 (NKJV)
Jesus (Yeshua, Salvation) had the attention of everyone in the crowd when He declared that the true living water would come from Him. He was inviting them to drink of Him, taking in water that would satisfy all thirsts. They could truly do as they had just sung. They could "draw water from the wells of salvation." And when a person drank from Him, they would also become a well from which living water would flow. And just in case we didn't understand what Jesus was implying, John explained His meaning to us. The Holy Spirit was still a future promise at this point because Jesus had not yet been crucified, resurrected, and ascended to Heaven. But in the near future of the people hearing this message, the Holy Spirit would come to live within them and enable them to be vessels filled to overflowing with the living water of the Messiah.
In all the Biblical holy days, about which God gave specific instructions for observing, He painted a picture of salvation for all generations. Even in the Old Testament recordings of these celebrations, it is obvious that God's plan has always been to provide salvation through His Messiah, Jesus; that people would be able to draw living water from the well of salvation (Yeshua/Jesus). How could anyone miss the symbolism of His beautiful artwork in the pictures painted by the Feasts, especially this one? Yet some did, and some still do.
In John 8:1-8, a story that happened shortly following the celebration at which Jesus declared Himself to be Living Water is recorded. Early in the morning, after the Feast of Tabernacles seventh day celebration during which Jesus made His declaration about being the true Living Water, Jesus came back into the temple. A crowd gathered and he began to teach them. His lesson was interrupted by a group of scribes and Pharisees who brought him a woman who had been caught in adultery. They quoted the Law to Him, stating that she should be stoned for her sin. They hoped to force Jesus to openly speak and act in opposition to God's law.
But Jesus did something that may have seemed strange to the crowd and to the scribes and Pharisees. He knelt to the ground and began to write a message in the dust with His finger. He then rose and told the accusers that whichever one of them had no sin should be the first one to cast a stone at the woman. He then stooped to the ground again and resumed writing in the dust.
The Bible records that the scribes and Pharisees were convicted by their own conscience and that they all left, one by one. Jesus remained there, alone with the woman, and told her that there was no one left to condemn her. And then He spoke some of the most beautiful words ever spoken.
"11. And Jesus said to her, "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more."
John 8:11b (NKJV)
Obviously, the message from Jesus to the crowd that day was that He had come to bring salvation and not condemnation. That had always been God's message through Him, especially in the symbolism of the Feast of Tabernacles. But even though they had just spent seven days in celebration, as God's promise and plan unfolded before them in the pictures painted by their observance of The Feast of Tabernacles, they had missed the point again.
What did Jesus write on the ground that day? The passage in John 8 doesn't tell us. But we might be able to draw some clues from Jeremiah 17:13. In this entire passage, the prophet Jeremiah recorded a prophecy about the judgment of the Jewish nation. But in this verse, the prophet Jeremiah is very specific.
"13. O Lord, the hope of Israel, All who forsake You shall be ashamed. Those who depart from Me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters."
Can you imagine the sadness that must have filled the heart of Jesus as He fulfilled the prophecy of the prophet Jeremiah and wrote in the dust that day? They had once again forsaken the message of the Feasts. They had just seen the promised Fountain of Living Waters standing before them, yet they were more interested in seeing that the law was kept to the letter.
What a message that carries for us today. God offers us the most incredible gift of salvation. Once we receive it, we stand before Him holy and righteous, under no condemnation. We stand free from bondage to any law and filled with His Holy Spirit, by which we are empowered to be vessels through which Christ works. We must be aware of the danger of becoming so focused on keeping the law and operating according to traditions that we miss so great a salvation!!